Article originally written by Scott Emigh. Find him on LinkedIn here.

In this second post on overcoming the major challenges to becoming a great Artificial Intelligence (AI) partner, we’ll address gaining leadership buy-in and commitment to AI. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the first post in this series here.

If customers are struggling with their adoption of AI via the direct route, an indirect approach may help them. Rather than solely focusing on the pursuit of discrete AI projects, consider starting with the integration of AI capabilities into your products and services to increase their effectiveness. As a bonus, making AI an ingredient of your core services can make your customer’s core services better too.

For example, every Microsoft customer using our cloud services—be it Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure, or Microsoft Dynamics—is directly benefiting from the incorporation of AI infused into the service:

  • Every time you log into your Windows 10 device with Microsoft Hello, Cognitive Services (in this case facial recognition) makes it possible
  • In a world with 250,000 new malware programs discovered every day, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection is able to filter 99.999% of malicious email for Exchange Online users because of the machine learning (ML) models that reason over the metadata of billions of emails flowing through Office 365 and Hotmail daily
  • MyAnalytics analyzes the online productivity behavior of Office 365 users and provides guidance on ways to improve productivity and quality of life through ML models
  • PowerPoint Design Suggestions uses the collective creativity of millions of PowerPoint designers to suggest attractive formatting of images and text based on predictive models
  • Cloud Application Security predicts which corporate IT users are most at risk of clicking on a phishing email link or exposing corporate data to security risks, and helps IT notify and educate these users

Our services are better because of AI, which provides a natural way for Microsoft account executives and solution specialists to open a productive conversation with their customers about AI opportunities. For example, application telemetry tied to ML services can provide predictive insights on user behavior, cognitive services can improve user interface and streamline or automate process in your application, and failure prediction can dramatically improve customer experience. You can even incorporate analytics and AI capabilities into your projects and solutions if they’re utilizing other vendor’s cloud services. For example, Instructure, the education market SaaS provider of the highly successful Canvas Learning Management System, is integrating Power BI as the analytics visualization tool for their Gauge assessment solution, running on AWS S3. All Microsoft analytics and AI services are designed to be open and easily integrated.

Incorporating AI into strategic initiatives is increasingly a board level discussion. This is particularly true as issues of privacy and ethics in AI are considered as major business risks. Many of our mutual customers are already convinced that digitally transforming their organizations, inclusive of AI adoption, is a business imperative and the top down mandate helps to catalyze AI projects throughout the company. In many other cases, however, customers are reluctant to take meaningful steps because of concerns of the risks, lack of understanding/expertise, or lack of clear vision for how to apply AI. For these customers, we can build comfort, familiarity, and experience through AI as an ingredient to our solutions as opposed to AI as the solution itself.

For example, maybe your customer is not yet ready to operationalize a predictive ML model to dispatch service technicians based on predicted failure of equipment in the field. But, would they be more receptive if you explained to them that the reason their MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations) system you built for them was so cost efficient in parts re-supply was because of the machine learning incorporated into the purchasing model running in the background?

According to Lori Borg, VP of Marketing at Microsoft Cloud and Data Platform partner 10th Magnitude, “As a Data Intelligence partner, 10th Magnitude is a vision-maker, a dream-creator, a cake-baker if you will. AI is an ingredient to all our solutions. It’s the chocolate to the German chocolate cake. While we can certainly bake the cake without chocolate, it just isn’t the same.”

In the final post on this topic, we’ll discuss the importance of modernizing your customer’s data platform during migrations, which makes future AI projects far more practical.

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